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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Follow The Line, words and art by Laura Ljungkvist. Viking, Penguin. 2006. $22.50 ages 3 and up

"through the noisy traffic,
How many boxes are there
on the red truck?
How many ambulances do
you see?
How many cars have their
headlights on?
How many trucks have cranes?"

Where have I been the last five years? How did I not know about this book? And now that I do, I find out there are three others, including one that has just been released. I gotta catch up!

Speaking of catchy, take a close look at the cover above and you can see how truly innovative and engaging this book will be for young readers. It's black! The line starts in the letter F and with concentration, you can follow it from front cover to back, without a break. Amazing!

It seems simple but what a great concept, and how accomplished Laura Ljungkvist is to hold our attention through each movement and past every single image. She begins with city buildings, asking questions about flowers, clocks, and fire hydrants. In each case the astute observer will notice that the line leads from top to bottom, then next door, and downstairs, inside and out and around windows and finally,  past the edge of the page and on to the people on the next double page spread.

The backgrounds are there, the color is set and that leaves the black line to make a very distinct progression from one side of the page to the other. And then on you go... There are loops, and curves, straight lines and designs, and it's a great math book to boot. It is not until the last page that the line changes white, so it can be seen in the darkness.

It's about the city, people, vehicles, signs and lights, the ocean, the deeps, the sky and so it goes. It is about counting, observation, and color. It's about fun, fun, fun! I was reading it on my own, and could not stop following the line, until I had done the counting, passed from one page to the next and wondered at the magic of it all. It is some journey!

It won't be long until I have the others on my shelf...Follow the Line through the house, Follow the Line around the world and the newest, Follow the Line to school. Of this fourth one, the artist has this to say:

"I had such a blast working on Follow the Line to school! This is the 4th in this series. They have all evolved graphically and each one has its "own flavor". In this one I have incorporated photographed objects. For example, the flowers are from the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, there is a car from Sao Paolo, Brazil and there are a lot of objects from my then 8 year old daughter's school. My daughter and I actually worked together on this book. I gave her assignments when I needed a "kid drawing". Most of the kids' drawings on the walls in the school in the book are hers! Also, in this book the line writes some words in the interior text, so when kids follow the line, they will automatically be spelling words without even thinking about it."

I'll tell you more when I have them all in hand!

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